Donald V. Watkins
Federal Judges: The Dark Side Nobody Wants to Talk About
Updated: Oct 7, 2022
By: Donald V. Watkins
© Copyrighted and Published on March 1, 2020
In 2010, Jack Camp was publicly considered to be a distinguished U.S. District Court Senior Judge in Atlanta. Privately, Judge Camp had a very dark side -- he loved to hang out in Atlanta's totally nude strip clubs and use illegal drugs with featured dancers. On October 1, 2010, Camp was arrested when he and a local stripper (who was an FBI informant) purchased $160 worth of recreational drugs from an undercover agent.
Less than two months after his arrest, Camp pleaded guilty to (a) one felony charge of aiding and abetting a person he knew to be a drug felon in the unlawful possession of illegal drugs and (b) two misdemeanor charges -- (i) illegally possessing cocaine, marijuana, and Roxicodone (a synthetic form of heroin) and (ii) theft of a government laptop computer that Camp had given to the stripper. Camp faced up to four years in prison and $300,000 in fines. This is the sentence that is routinely handed down to defendants who are convicted of the same crimes, together with a sanctimonious speech about how the sentencing judge needs to make an example out of the accused. This is particularly true when the accused is a black male.
U.S. District Court Senior Judge Thomas F. Hogan from Washington, D.C. was assigned to handle Camp's case. Hogan wasted no time in bending the "arc of justice" in Camp's favor. Hogan promptly converted the felony charge into a misdemeanor, made the charges run concurrently, and sentenced Camp to 30 days in jail and 10 weeks of community service. He also imposed a $1,000 fine on Camp. This action allowed Camp to keep his right to vote, hold public office, carry a gun, and collect his $174,000 per year salary (with annual increases) for life.
The Privileged Few Get Preferential Treatment
Federal judges are the only group of public officials who receive lifetime presidential appointments to their job. They take office after their appointment has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. They can only be removed from office by a Congressional impeachment proceeding.
The judges who serve on the District Courts around the United States and its territories earn a salary of $210,000 per year. The ones who serve on the Courts of Appeal make $223,700 per year. The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court makes $270,700 per year while his eight Associate Justices make $258,900 per year.
When federal judges take "senior status" or semi-retirement like Judge Camp, they continue to receive their full salary. Their healthcare plans and job benefits are the best and most expansive in the nation for government officials.
In addition to Judge Jack Camp, there are those among the ranks of federal judges who have accepted bribes and kick-backs, those who have lied to FBI agents, those who have committed sexual assaults on women, those who have committed perjury when testifying to judicial investigators and before grand juries, those who have obstructed justice, those who have severely beat their wives, those who have slept with courtroom deputies, court reporters, secretaries, and prosecutors, those who have presided over trials while high on prescription drugs, and those who have routinely held ex parte meetings and phone calls about pending cases with prosecutors and powerful outside parties. What is worse, this smorgasbord of misconduct among the ranks of federal judges continues to this day.
When federal judges like Jack Camp commit federal crimes, most of them do not get prosecuted for their offenses. For example, Judge G. Thomas Porteous of Louisiana was found guilty of four articles of impeachment in 2009, including accepting kick-backs and lying to the Senate and FBI. Unlike President Trump's friend, Roger Stone, Judge Porteous was never prosecuted by the Department of Justice for lying to Congress. Sadly, the list of federal judges who committed crimes while serving on the bench and who escaped criminal prosecution is long and distinguished.
What is worse, federal judges in the modern era of partisan politics have morphed into judicial "fluffers" for prosecutors in cases that involve ordinary defendants. Today, many federal judges use the cases in their courtrooms to push personal ideologies and partisan agendas. Judicial scholarship is often used to erode, not protect, the basic Constitutional rights of ordinary citizens.
Appointments to the federal bench have become political "plums" for party hacks. Many of these appointees have no litigation or courtroom experience. Some of them are downright incompetent. Very few of them deserve to be praised for their legacy on the bench.
Independent, Online Journalists Are Holding Federal Judges Accountable for Their Misconduct.
In recent years, online journalist Roger Shuler (a/k/a "Legal Schnauzer" in Birmingham, Alabama), David Meckley (a/k/a "The Meck" in Dothan, Alabama), and I have written several articles that were highly critical of the federal judiciary. A few readers have suggested that we are not showing the proper reverence and respect for the men and women who sit on the federal bench. For the reasons discussed in this article, I disagree.
As professional journalists, we respect those federal judges who deserve respect. However, the number of federal judges in this category is dwindling each year.
Unlike most mainstream journalists who are not free to criticize wayward members of the federal bench, Shuler, Meckley, and I hold federal judges fully accountable for their misconduct in the performance of their jobs. No public official should be exempt from the highest standards of accountability, ethics, and integrity, especially those public officials who enjoy a lifetime job with the best salary and benefits package in the nation.
State, local, and national bar associations are afraid to criticize judicial misconduct, even when it is glaring and inexcusable. For example, in 2014, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Mark E. Fuller (in Montgomery, Alabama) savagely beat his second wife Kelli in an Atlanta hotel room. He was arrested and jailed for spousal battery. Fuller's colleagues on the federal bench remained silent about his drunken rage and violent conduct. Some of them tried to help Fuller keep his job by suggesting that he go to anger management classes to control his temper. No bar association group condemned Fuller's violent conduct.
Fuller was eventually forced to resign on August 1, 2015 after Roger Shuler, David Meckley, and I engaged in a year-long series of investigative news articles that exposed Fuller's marital cheating, spousal abuse, sexual escapades with courthouse staffers and law clerks, and prescription pill-popping conduct during trials. Fuller also lied to judicial investigators who probed his misconduct. Like Judge Porteous, Fuller was never prosecuted for perjury or any other federal crime.
The Trump Effect
President Donald Trump has proclaimed, on a repeated and sustained basis, that the federal criminal justice system is "rigged." The cases of Judges Jack Camp, Thomas Porteous, and Mark Fuller appear to support Trump's claim. It is telling that no Republican member of any national, state, or local government body disputed Trump's characterization of the federal judiciary.
Furthermore, the Federal Judges Association, a professional organization which was founded in 1982 to advance and protect the financial gravy train that federal judges ride, did not push back on President Trump's description of the federal criminal justice system. This is true even after the President labeled FBI agents as "scum" and federal prosecutors as "corrupt."
The double-standard between the preferential treatment accorded to corrupt federal judges, as compared to the harsh treatment ordinary Americans routinely face in the federal criminal justice system, requires no further discussion. It speaks for itself. It is shameful.
This is the dark, seedy side of the federal judiciary! It's a cesspool of hypocrisy, favoritism, protectionism, and incestuous dealings. Federal judges truly know how to take care of their own.